Philip N. Barkins, P.T.
State Examining Board of Physical
Division of Professional Regulation
861 Silver Lake Boulevard
Dover, DE 19904
Re: Clarifications of Attorney
General Opinion 2003/03-IB08
(May 1, 2003): Education Requirements for Foreign-Educated
Dear Mr. Barkins:
We gave you our views in our May 1 response. Subsequently, we understand that some discussion persists focusing on how our conclusions apply to foreign-educated applicants who received diplomas from such foreign programs prior to the effective date of the change in the CAPTE accreditation standard. This was the scenario outlined in your second question, however, that question did not specifically refer to the equivalency requirements of foreign applicants during the time period when CAPTE continued to accredit baccalaureate degrees. We now take this opportunity to clarify the intent of our prior views and to speak to this specific situation.
At page 5 of our earlier letter, we explained that we did not believe that the new CAPTE accreditation standard should apply retroactively to those applicants who had completed a CAPTE approved program prior to the effective date of the new standard. Rather, we said, if the applicant's school had been accredited by CAPTE at the time of the applicant's graduation, the applicant should not be required to supplement his or her education to conform to the new CAPTE accreditation standard. We reached that conclusion based on the language of 24 Del. C. § 2606(a)(1) (2002 Supp.). Under that section, an applicant for a physical therapist license must, generally, demonstrate graduation from a physical therapy program accredited "at the time of graduation."
We continue to believe that it would be reasonable to apply this same benchmark to a foreign-educated applicant who is given, under 24 Del. C. § 2606(b), the opportunity to show that she completed a physical therapy program equivalent to that "required under section (a)." To make this clear, we would revise our response in paragraph 2 on page 2 of our May 1st correspondence to read as follows:
We conclude that an applicant for licensure who graduated from a foreign physical therapy program after January 1, 2003, must furnish evidence to the State Examining Board of Physical Therapy (Board) that he or she graduated from a program that provided course work content equivalent to the course work completed by graduates of a program accredited under CAPTE's new postbaccalaureate standard. Foreign-educated applicants for licensure who received a degree from a non-CAPTE accredited institution prior to December 31, 2002, are required to provide the Board with evidence of completion of a "resident course of professional instruction" that would be equal to the course work that would have completed by graduates of CAPTE-accredited programs on the date of the applicant's graduation. In most instances, this would require such pre-2003 foreign graduate to provide proof of equivalency to the former baccalaureate degree standard. Finally, the requirement of a postbaccalaureate degree or its equivalent to all applicants graduating after 2002 does not on its face constitute unlawful discrimination against those applicants who have received a foreign-education; however, this opinion is not offered in response to a specific fact scenario, and it is not possible to anticipate every factual determination that could be relevant to the application and enforcement of 24 Del. C. §§ 2606(a0(1) and 2606(b).
(1) Did the applicant graduate prior to January 1, 2003 from a physical therapy program given by a foreign educational institution? If so, the applicant needs to establish that the course of instruction leading to her degree was equivalent to the course of instruction completed by graduates of an accredited institution under the accreditation standards prevailing at the date of the applicant's graduation.(2)
(2) Did the applicant graduate after December 31, 2002 from a physical therapy program given by a foreign educational institution? If so, then the applicant needs to establish that the course of instruction leading to her degree was equivalent to the course of instruction given by an institution accredited under the standard (postbaccalaureate) implemented by CAPTE on January 1, 2002.
As before, we think this interpretation of the statutory language is reasonable, and one that this State's courts would accept.
We hope this clarification adequately explains the thrust of our correspondence of May 1, 2003. Very truly yours,
Deputy Attorney General
Keith R. Brady
Assistant State Solicitor
cc: Honorable M. Jane Brady, Attorney General
Philip Johnson, Opinion Coordinator
1. As we indicated in our earlier letter, we understand that, effective January 1, 2002, CAPTE will no longer accredit physical therapy programs which only offer baccalaureate degrees. However, as we also understand it, CAPTE continued its "accreditation" of baccalaureate degree programs for persons who were in the final leg in such program on December 31, 2001, and who subsequently graduated prior to January 1, 2003. Thus, persons graduating from such programs prior to 2003 with a bachelor's degree would still graduate from an "accredited program." In light of that, we will assume as a rule of thumb that the new postbaccalaureate degree standards applies to persons graduating after January 1, 2003.
2. Again, we have chosen the January 1, 2003 date for the dividing line in these questions to reflect that CAPTE continues to deem year 2002 graduates of baccalaureate programs as graduates of "accredited" programs. See n.1 above.